The Submission by Amy Waldman

About the book

A jury gathers in Manhattan to select a memorial for the victims of a devastating terrorist attack. Their fraught deliberations complete, the jurors open the envelope containing the anonymous winner’s name – and discover he is an American Muslim. Instantly they are cast into roiling debate about the claims of grief, the ambiguities of art, and the meaning of Islam.  The memorial’s designer is Mohammad Khan, an enigmatic, ambitious architect. His fiercest defender on the jury is its sole widow, the mediagenic Claire Burwell. But when the news of his selection leaks to the press, Claire finds herself under pressure from outraged family members and in collision with hungry journalists, wary activists, opportunistic politicians, fellow jurors, and Khan himself. All will bring the emotional weight of their own histories to bear on the urgent question of how to remember, and understand, a national tragedy.

 

Reviewed by Stubbington Book Ends

“A thought- provoking book. Well developed characters. An intelligent, satisfying read

star rating *** ½

 

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The Return by Victoria Hislop

About the book

An atmospheric, vibrant and moving tale of pain and passion at the heart of war-torn Spain, from Victoria Hislop, the million-copy bestselling author of THE ISLAND.

Beneath the majestic towers of the Alhambra, Granada’s cobbled streets resonate with music and secrets. Sonia Cameron knows nothing of the city’s shocking past; she is here to dance. But in a quiet café, a chance conversation and an intriguing collection of old photographs draw her into the extraordinary tale of Spain’s devastating civil war.

Seventy years earlier, the café is home to the close-knit Ramírez family. In 1936, an army coup led by Franco shatters the country’s fragile peace, and in the heart of Granada the family witnesses the worst atrocities of conflict. Divided by politics and tragedy, everyone must take a side, fighting a personal battle as Spain rips itself apart.

 

Reviewed by Valleydene

“Started a bit slow but once into the story of the Ramirez family it was quite an emotional journey. Hadn’t known anything about the Spanish Civil War and that it was so recent which made it all the more poignant

star rating *** ½

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A Scot’s Quair (Sunset Song) by Lewis Grassic Gibbon

About the book

Chris Guthrie, torn between her love of the land and her desire to escape the narrow horizons of a peasant culture, is the thread that links these three works. In them, Gibbon interweaves the personal joys and sorrows of Chris’ life with the greater historical and political events of the time.

Sunset Song, the first and most celebrated book of the trilogy, covers the early years of the twentieth century, including the First World War. Chris survives, with her son Ewan, but the tragedy has struck and her wild spirit subdued.

 

Reviewed by Ten For Books

“Most of us really struggled with the ‘language’ of Sunset Song but those who persevered really loved it! We thoroughly recommend it to other groups”

star rating ****

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Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

About the book

Latin terrorists storm an international gathering hosted by an underprivileged country to promote foreign interest and trade, only to find that their intended target, the President, has stayed home to watch his favourite soap opera on TV. Among the hostages are a world class opera singer and her biggest fan, a Japanese tycoon who has been persuaded to attend the party on the understanding that she will perform half a dozen arias after dinner.
The tycoon’s engaging and sympathetic translator plays a vital role in the subsequent relationships between so many different nationalities closeted together, interpreting not only the terrorists’ negotiations but also the language of love between lovers who cannot understand what the other is saying.
Ultimately, it is the terrorist strike that does more to promote foreign relations than anyone could have hoped to achieve with the party.

Reviewed by Andover NWR:

The book set the scene perfectly – all sense of time ceased, The tension was palpable, at the same time we were lulled into a false sense of security. The epilogue surprised everyone. All agreed – an excellent read.

Rating: ***

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Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama

About the book

The son of a black African father and a white American mother, Obama was only two years old when his father walked out on the family. Many years later, Obama receives a phone call from Nairobi: his father is dead. This sudden news inspires an emotional odyssey for Obama, determined to learn the truth of his father’s life and reconcile his divided inheritance. Written at the age of thirty-three, Dreams from my Father is an unforgettable read. it illuminates not only Obama’s journey, but also our universal desire to understand our history, and what makes us the people we are.

Reviewed by  King’s Somborne Reading Group:

Most of the group really enjoyed this book and found it very interesting and beautifully written. An eye opener into the problems of identity of a mixed race child whose father is absent. Some were more sceptical and thought it may be self serving.

Star rating: ****

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Gene Genie by Patricia Mullin

About the book

Michael Barton MP is the Minister for the Family, happily married and with two daughters. He never imagined that an apparent act of selflessness on his part, committed almost thirty years ago, could come back to haunt him.

Reviewed by Biscuits, Books and Banter (Yateley Library):

Interesting subject handled fairly well. The main characters were weak, but the supporting females were very strong – reflection of real life? Raised lots of good discussion points and an interesting and lively meeting ensued. Lots of ethical questions to be thought over.

Star rating: ***

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The Importance of Being Kennedy by Laurie Graham

About the book

A brilliant novel by Laurie Graham set in wartime London, which follows Kick Kennedy, sister of future US President JFK, as she takes London society by storm. Nora Brennan is a country girl from Westmeath. When she lands herself a position as nursery maid to a family in Brookline, Massachusetts, she little thinks it will place her at the heart of American history. But it’s the Kennedy family. In 1917 Joseph Kennedy is on his way to his first million and he has plans to found a dynasty and ensure that his baby son, Joe Junior, will be the first Catholic President of the United States. As nursemaid to all nine Kennedy children, Nora witnesses every moment, public and private. She sees the boys coached at their father’s knee to believe everything they’ll ever want in life can be bought. She sees the girls trained by their mother to be good Catholic wives. World War II changes everything. At the outbreak of war the Kennedys are living the high life in London, where Joseph Kennedy is the American ambassador. His reaction is to send the entire household back across the Atlantic to safety, but Nora, surprised by midlife love, chooses to stay in England and do her bit. Separated from her Kennedys by an ocean she nevertheless remains the warm, approachable sun around which the older children orbit: Joe, Jack, Rosemary, and in particular Kick, who throws the first spanner in the Kennedy works by marrying an English Protestant. Laurie Graham’s poignant new novel views the Kennedys from below stairs, with the humour and candour that only an ex-nursemaid dare employ.

Reviewed by The Accidental Reading Group:

The book raised awareness of the history of the Kennedy family among the younger members of the group. They found it more interesting as it sparked interest in that era.

Star rating: ***

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